“I’m tearful because I sit here looking at upcoming bills and I’m having to decide to pay a bill or buy groceries.”
That’s what one West Virginian wrote to me, but unfortunately, it’s a common theme I’m hearing all across our state.
In reality, families in West Virginia and across our nation continue to struggle because the policies and priorities of the Biden administration have made essential items and goods unaffordable. Whether it be gas, goods and services, energy prices, utility costs, small business expenses, home mortgages, or simply the ability to put food on the table, American families are squeezed at every turn.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, prices have risen 13.7% since President Biden took office. A recent report from the Heritage Foundation found that because of this staggering rise, the average American family has $7,400 fewer dollars in their bank accounts.
That is simply unacceptable.
We saw the consequences of President Biden’s leadership just last week, as the Federal Reserve announced its eighth consecutive interest rate hike in order to curb the two-year high inflation economy created by this administration.
While our families struggle, President Biden continues to laud small inflation changes and slowed economic growth. Yet, he refuses to recognize his administration’s role in the record-high prices that the American middle class continues to face, or the further economic fallout Americans are likely to face later this year from interest rate hikes in the past year.
One thing is certain though; the cost of food remains a central topic of concern for West Virginians. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that the cost of groceries was up 11.8% from last year. In fact, the price of every food category continued to grow at rates faster than their historical average. A recent PBS analysis also points out that America’s rural population is experiencing their cost of living rising faster and lingering longer than those in urban areas. In the words of another West Virginian who wrote into my office, “How are we supposed to keep our houses warm and food on the table?”
And speaking of housing, it remains unaffordable.
Because of President Biden’s price hikes, fixed mortgage rates rose from 3.4% in January of last year, to 7.12% in a matter of months. The National Association of Realtors’ Housing Affordability Index dipped below a 100, signifying that average families do not have enough money to qualify for a mortgage on a median priced home.
In other words: New families and hardworking individuals who made smart financial decisions with the hope of purchasing a home, can no longer afford to pursue that dream.
But that’s not all. When it comes to energy, we can’t forget that Americans are still paying over 30% more.
Jeremy from southern West Virginia wrote to my office recently to say, “My electric bill at my residence is double the cost of my mortgage every month. This is not sustainable. I will go bankrupt just trying to keep the lights on.”
With costs like this becoming the status quo, American families are having to choose between keeping the lights on, filling the car with gas, or putting food on the table. This is not only unfair, but it’s also avoidable, especially in a country with as many resources as the United States. It also shows the direct impact on our families when leaders turn their back on American energy.
Additionally, the U.S. Manufacturing industry has not been exempt from the economic woes created by this administration. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell into “contraction territory” in November and December 2022.
While President Biden touts a “historic manufacturing boom,” the reality is that U.S. manufacturers may be on their way to a recession, and the downturn will likely deepen as purchasing power decreases and interest rates continue to increase. This further demonstrates how out-of-touch the administration is from the devastating reality that American businesses, and West Virginia workers, are currently grappling with.
President Biden, when is enough, enough?
Now more than ever, families in West Virginia and across America need leadership. What they don’t need are misleading messages and attempts to take credit when it is not deserved.
It is my hope that President Biden makes it a priority during his State of the Union Address on Tuesday to finally answer these questions, and address the middle class squeeze he has created across our country.